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Circles of analysis: a systemic model of child criminal exploitation

Barlow, Craig; Kidd, Alicia; Green, Simon T.; Darby, Bethany


Craig Barlow

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Professor Simon Green
Professor of Criminology & Victimology / Senior Researcher in Modern Slavery, Wilberforce Institute

Bethany Darby


Bethany Darby
Project Member

Craig Barlow
Project Leader


Purpose: Child criminal exploitation (CCE) emerges from the complex interplay between potential targets, motivated perpetrators and conducive environments. Drawing on contextual safeguarding and rational choice theory. The purpose of this paper is to explain the relational dynamics that lead to CCE in terms of complex systems. Design/methodology/approach: This paper reviews the existing criminological and public health perspectives on CCE and compare against current assessment protocols used to identify child victims of exploitation. Findings: Findings demonstrate a conceptual and empirical flaw in existing practice. This flaw can be understood in terms of a failure to include both environmental conditions and the perpetrator’s motivation when trying to prevent CCE. Research limitations/implications: To correct this, this paper develops an original systemic model called circles of analysis. This model builds on contextual safeguarding to overcome this identified flaw by also including perpetrator motivation to develop a Systemic Investigation, Protection and Prosecution Strategy. Practical implications: It is worth considering as to whether our model can be scaled up to look at trafficking of children and adults for modern slavery, servitude, forced and compulsory labour in different contexts and jurisdictions. Alongside this, is there capacity to build perpetrator behaviours into the contextual safeguarding model? Social implications: The potential for further development and alignment with the principles of contextual safeguarding is tantalising, and it is hoped that the contribution to this important special edition will open up new avenues for collaboration with both academics and practitioners who are concerned with protecting children and combatting CCE. Originality/value: This strategy is uniquely designed to improve how police and social workers identify and investigate CCE and safeguard potential victims and survivors.


Barlow, C., Kidd, A., Green, S. T., & Darby, B. (in press). Circles of analysis: a systemic model of child criminal exploitation. Journal of Children's Services,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 13, 2021
Online Publication Date Nov 3, 2021
Deposit Date Oct 14, 2021
Publicly Available Date Oct 27, 2022
Journal Journal of Children's Services
Print ISSN 1746-6660
Publisher Emerald
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Keywords Child Criminal Exploitation; Contextual safeguarding; Rational choice theory; Criminology; Public health; Complexity theory
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Article (841 Kb)

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